A too-common tragedy played out in Darlington County, South Carolina (SC), on the night of May 13, 2017, when a car’s driver turned left in front of a motorcycle rider. The collision on Dovesville Highway at around 7:40 pm ejected the motorcyclist from his bike, and he died from his injuries at the scene.
According to Highway Patrol investigators, the person driving the car was attempting to enter a private driveway near the intersection of Ambergate Drive and Cedar Ridge Road, which both sit just off the state route that also goes by the designation of Secondary Highway 41.
It is unclear whether the car’s driver will face charges for causing the fatal crash. Decades of data, however, show that failing to yield of right of way to motorcyclists leads to thousands of deaths each year. A National Transportation Safety Administration pamphlet titled The Anatomy of a Motorcycle Crash states, “About one-third of multivehicle motorcycle crashes are a result of other motorists turning into the path of the motorcycle.” It further notes that
More than 80 percent of all reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to the motorcyclist. The motorcycle itself provides no head injury protection to the rider or passenger. Ejection from the motorcycle is a common injury pathway.
Putting that general statistic into more concrete terms, a later report from NHTSA revealed that 4,957 motorcycle operators and passengers lost their lives in traffic accidents during 2012. And, despite accounting for just 0.7 percent of road and highway miles traveled that year, people on motorcycles experienced 15 percent of all traffic fatalities.
A further analysis indicated that people on motorcycles “were more than 26 times likely than passenger car occupants to die in motor vehicle traffic crashes and 5 times more likely to be injured.” NHTSA explained that difference in risk in its motorcycle safety pamphlet using these terms: “The motorcycle itself provides no head injury protection to the rider or passenger. Ejection from the motorcycle is a common injury pathway. If a motorcycle comes to a sudden stop and the rider is ejected from the motorcycle, the rider will forcibly strike objects in the path as well as the ground.”
Drivers who cut off motorcycles while making turns, entering highways or changing lanes can be held responsible for settling personal injury and wrongful death insurance claims. Being negligent in keeping a proper lookout for motorcyclists causes too much pain and loss of life. My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I urge all drivers to take the time and make the effort to spot and yield to motorcycles.